Postal Service sets Holiday Military Mailing Guidelines
By Samantha L. Quigley
WASHINGTON — As the holidays approach and people start thinking about what they are going to send loved ones and friends serving overseas, there are a few dates to keep in mind.
"The earliest deadline is for troops that are serving in the Iraq [and] Afghanistan area," said Al DeSarro, spokesman for the western region of the U.S. Postal Service. "You want to send all your holiday mail and packages [to those areas] by Dec. 4."
Holiday mail, including packages and cards, going to military bases in other parts of the world should be shipped by Dec. 11, he said.
"We do encourage people to closely follow these deadlines," Mr. DeSarro said. "Of course, we make every attempt, even if you miss the deadline, to deliver the mail to our troops."
People who cannot beat those dates have another option to get holiday goodies to their destinations in time: Express Mail. But it will cost a bit more and it is not available for military members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Priority mail flat-rate boxes are the best value when shipping to military members serving at home or anywhere overseas, Mr. DeSarro said. The largest flat-rate box costs $10.95 to ship to an APO or FPO address. That is a $2 discount, and the boxes are free.
The flat-rate boxes come with another bonus. If it will fit in the box, and weighs 70 pounds or less, it ships at the established rate.
"We also offer a special military package kit, … and this applies even if you want to send to our troops here in the U.S.," Mr. DeSarro said. "If you call … 1-800-610-8734, they’ll send you a free kit of packaging materials — priority mail boxes, tape, labels and stuff that can make your holiday packing much easier."
When shipping any holiday package, there are some basic guidelines to take into consideration, he added. If a USPS-provided box is not being used, senders should make sure the box they’re using is sturdy. Don’t use wrapping paper or string on the outside, and print both the shipping and return addresses clearly. Contents should be packaged securely and in leak-proof containers, and consider the customs of the country to ensure the items are appropriate and acceptable.
USPS officials also suggests including the mailing address, return address and the contents of the box on a slip of paper with the other contents, just in case something out of the ordinary should happen.
Following not only the shipping date guidelines, but also the general packing guidelines can help the USPS get packages where they are going during their busiest time of the year.
Mr. DeSarro urges people to mail as much as they want and as early as they can, adding that officials expect 20 million pounds of mail will be sent to U.S. troops this holiday season.